Honey & Cheese Party

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I'm excited to introduce a new series called Noshing with Friends, which brings together craft food and simple pairings in the company of good friends.

The inspiration for this event was this post as well as two pairings I remember having while living in (and later returning to Spain): manchego and membrillo, also known as quince paste (a quintessential Spanish dessert) and mel i mató (a Catalán dessert traditionally made with rosemary honey and fresh unsalted cheese from Montserrat).  This crostini bar post on TheKitchn also inspired and provided some good ideas.

These articles on Food and WineMartha StewartSnoothMetro.usSerious Eats and The Cheese Shop of Centerbrook were good sources for different elements to include in the menu and various ideas for pairings.  I also printed out some of the articles for guests to read during the party.

I wanted to serve a couple of cheeses that I knew and loved– manchego and Humboldt Fog–and some cheeses that were new to me.  In the end, we had a diverse collection of wonderful cheeses provided by the new Provisions Market in Old Town Orange: Lamb ChopperFiscalini CheddarKunikHumboldt Fogmanchego and Whole Milk Jersey Ricotta by Bellwether Farms.  

Provisions also gave us some of their handcrafted jams: apricot ginger, strawberry chili and blackberry pinot noir, all of which were flavorful and bright accoutrements to the cheeses. Ames Farm sent over some lovely raw single source honey: basswood, buckwheat, sweet clover, buckthorn and savory spring.  Honey Pacifica provided a great sampling of their fantastic local raw honey: mango (a honey flavored with mango extract), creamy wildflower, sage, avocado, orange blossom and wildflower.  Guest favorites were Ames Farm's basswood and Honey Pacifica's mango.  I think what surprised us most was the basswood honey–it had fruity notes to it–almost like lychee, someone remarked at the party.  Overall, I was very impressed with the high quality and diversity of all the honey.  Each honey had a distinct personality and flavor profile.  It was interesting to try Ames Farm's buckwheat honey and Honey Pacifica's avocado honey–they were both full-bodied and rich, almost like molasses. Honey Pacifica's sage was nice and delicate as well as Ames Farm's sweet clover, and they paired nicely with the more mild, delicate or fresh cheeses.  The saltier, aged or sharp cheeses seemed to go well with the more full-flavored honeys.  However, it doesn't seem like you can go wrong with honey and cheese–according to cheese expert Laurie Werlin, "… almost any kind of honey is delicious with a salty cheese."  The pairing of salty and sweet is a basic, fundamental combination that just works well.  I definitely recommend trying a sampler of raw honey–you'll get just enough of each and will be able to compare and appreciate the nuances of each.
We also had fruit on hand to go with our different cheeses and honeys: apples, pears, cherries, figs and Frog Hollow Farm's beautiful peaches.  Everyone adored the peaches, saying that they tasted like no other peaches from around here.  To me, they were the ultimate "peachy" peaches and every bite evoked the sweetness and warmth of summer.  We also had membrillo (quince paste) to go with the manchego.  It sweetness and tartness complemented almost all of the cheeses.
Some pairings that were liked:

Jonagold apples with Humboldt Fog
Manchego and apricot ginger preseves
Fiscalini and basswood honey
Humboldt Fog and buckwheat honey

Humboldt Fog and mango honey
Kunik and basswood honey
Kunik and orange blossom honey
Manchego and mango honey
Fig, ricotta and mango honey
Lamb Chopper, cherries and sweet clover honey

Many thanks to all the different artisan businesses that provided their amazing products for our event:

Bambu makes natural handcrafted products for the home.  Their ideas are inspired by the materials they work with, and crafted in a way that supports sustainable business practices.

Provisions Market is a newly opened market, deli and bruery in Old Town Orange that fills a need for a neighborhood spot offering a curated selection of craft beer, cheeses, sandwiches and artisan goods and a great place to share a meal with friends.  They also feature Sidecar doughnuts, bread by OC Baking Company and soon, coffee by Portola.  All the best things in one place.  Provisions Market is making and jarring its own jams and preserves on site and will have a rotating line of pickles, jams, jellies, and sauces.  Production is just getting going, so look to find these on the shelves in the coming weeks.

Frog Hollow is a farm in the Bay area city of Brentwood that is known for its legendary and organic stone fruit.  During one of my many weekends spent at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, I had one of their fruit tartlets at their bakery and loved it.  You can order their stone fruit, preserves and other assorted artisan goods on their website.

Ames Farm Limited is a virtual farm with 5 orchards and 18 bee locations spread out over a large area of central and southern Minnesota.  They produce high quality, raw single source honey, bee pollen and 20 varieties of apples. 

Honey Pacifica is a local raw honey producer located in Long Beach.  "In order to preserve the delicate flavors of the raw honey," they make each flavor themselves.  You can watch their video "The Beekeeper's Life" and read more details about their honey process on their website.

What is great about this kind of gathering is that if you invite people that don't know each other, the food and pairings are a great starting point for conversation and help people to connect with one another.  But then again, that's what food has done historically: connected us and brought us together.  Looking forward to the next gathering in our Noshing with Friends series.

Post by Michelle Sterling of Avery and Augustine

You can see her work and read about her two young children's first forays in cooking, art and everything in between at Avery and Augustine.

Easy Fireworks Stamps

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Last year I created a series of fireworks stamps for my children and they were a huge hit, so this year I decided to try it again. The stamps are super easy to make and most likely involve materials you already have around the house.

Here's What You'll Need:

  • Cardboard, Poster Board or Foam Board
  • Yarn
  • Scissors
  • Pen or Pencil

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To Create the Stamps:

Cut your cardboard into small circles. Mark a series of evenly spaced lines around the outer edge of the circles and then cut small incisions in the circle.

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Thread the yarn around the circle to form an asterisk-like shape and then tie the ends of the yarn in the back.

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Once your stamps are ready, place paint in a dish and either press the stamp into the paint or use a brush to apply the paint along the lines formed by the yarn.

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Now you can use your stamps to make fireworks-themed art, banners or even gift wrap.

Post by Julee : Warm Hot Chocolate

Imagination Workout

We’re back today with an extra special worksheet designed by my own clever super daughter Attalie.

She loves color, art and pretty much anything creative. One of her favorite activities is what we like to call “Imagination Workouts.” Attalie tells me she got the idea in art class at school. The first I saw of them was a worksheet she created totally from scratch. It featured a hand-drawn grid that was not at all straight but very cute! (If I was really Supermom I would have remembered to take a picture of it — it was SO precious, but I fear it ended up in the trash.)

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Well Attalie really wanted me to share this idea on the blog. So we decided I would use the computer to create a nice straight grid, and then she would hand draw in the lines and shapes in each of the boxes. Download Attalie’s Imagination Workout worksheet for you kids!

Since the worksheet involves creating 11 mini pictures, this is an activity that could keep your kiddos busy for a good stretch of time (Score! Right?). Plus it is really interesting to see what the kids come up with — it surprises me at just how creative Attalie can be, and also I’m fascinated to see what things she’s got stored away in her brain (like that Route 66 sign?!) This is not just a worksheet for kids either! Everybody at our house enjoys working on these.

If you like Attalie’s worksheet please be sure to leave a comment for her below because she has been really looking forward to *her* Worksheet Wednesday.

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Reposted with permission by Aimée Lowry & Bettijo B. Hirschi from PagingSupermom.com

Behind the Scenes – Nod at South Coast Plaza

Last month we opened our first store in California (yay!). It’s located in Costa Mesa at South Coast Plaza. When we set out to design the space, we knew we had to do something inspiring. The shopping center is filled with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada and Harry Winston. And they spare no expense in making their stores gorgeous. Also, we have tons of fantastic, loyal customers in California who have been waiting years to see Nod in person, and we didn’t want to disappoint. 

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Certainly we wanted our latest collection of home furnishings to be the star of the show, but the space itself needed a little something to make it Nod. As soon as I saw the brick wall behind the front counter, I knew just what it needed….COLOR! A riot of colors to be more exact. So, I decided that we should paint each individual brick in a rainbow palette, but not your standard rainbow, something a little more updated and a little unexpected. To pick the colors, I first looked to our product and was inspired by our Pop of Color Pendants. Starting with those hues, and a Sherwin Williams swatch book, I finally settled on a color scheme.

Coming up with crazy ideas is one thing, but figuring out how to execute them is usually the bigger task. Now that we’d all fallen for this idea, just how on earth were we going to do it. I distinctly remember my conversation with our Managing Director, Michelle. “So, you know that brick wall we want to paint multi-colored at the South Coast store? Tell me if I’m nuts, but I’m thinking I’ll just paint it myself.” Luckily, “we’re a little nuts” is one of our principles of being a Noddie, so she agreed it was a perfectly fine idea.

Here’s what the wall looked like when I arrived. 

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We’d had our contractors paint it a light mint green (Sherwin Williams Gratifying Green SW6435), which would eventually become the “grout” color of the wall. I have to admit, when I stood in front of the wall, paint-brush in hand, it felt a lot bigger than I remembered it when I proposed I’d paint it.

At this point, a contractor we’d hired to do some other work looked at me and said, Him – “You’re painting this by yourself?”

Me – “yes”

Hime – “Each brick? Individually? All of them?”

Me – “yes”

Him – “and you have HOW LONG to do it?”

Me – “A day and a half.”

At which point I think he just decided that I was off my rocker and walked away shaking his head.

If you knew me, you’d know I don’t like to be told I can’t do something. So, challenge accepted. I snapped a photo and got to work. I decided to start with the lightest color and go from there, figuring that the darker colors would need fewer bricks to feel balanced. And, if I needed to paint over any, it would be easier to paint over the lighter colors.

First up, a pale pinky-purple (that’s the technical name). Sherwin Williams Queenly SW-6977

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Then a mandarin orange. Sherwin Williams Mandarin SW-6891

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Next a bright grass green. Sherwin Williams Outrageous Green SW-6922

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Followed by a vibrant, orangey-red (a great color for lipstick or nail polish BTW). Sherwin Williams Gladiola SW-6875

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Then a color Sherwin Williams likes to call Decisive Yellow. LOVE! SW-6902

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Last color, a deep turquoise blue. Sherwin Williams Blue Nile SW-6776

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You may have noticed that the top row isn’t done in any of these. Here’s the thing, I couldn’t reach it, even on my tippy toes. And, I was afraid to stand on that ledge you see here. (Full disclosure: I’m 5’10” and afraid of heights, not even high heights, any heights higher than 5’10”, really. I have a theory that tall people aren’t often picked up so are, therefore, not used to and uncomfortable being any higher up than they already are.) We didn’t have a ladder that could reach across the back counter, and no scaffolding was available, though I’m not sure I’d have gone on it if it was there. So, I used the next best thing, one of our Storage Play Chairs

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Now, I definitely don’t recommend doing this at home. But, I did first check the product info and saw that this chair is rated to hold up to 200 lbs! Wow, that’s one sturdy kids chair, impressive. So, I stood on my tiny chair and finished the top row.

Then I went back and did a little touch up to the grout. Which, oddly enough was the most satisfying part of the process.

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Before heading back to Chicago, I couldn’t resist hopping up on the counter and getting my pic with the wall. 

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I was sad to leave it behind, and have been trying to convince my husband to let me replicate it on the outside of our brick house, but, as you can imagine, he’s not having it.

By Danielle Kurtz

Danielle is the Creative Director at Nod and an over-protective mother of two. She’s also completely obsessed with Pinterest, Twitter and her Kindle, but not necessarily in that order. Danielle loves to craft, sew and crochet, but all her supplies have a layer of dust on them about 6-years-thick, wonder if it's just a coincidence that her oldest kiddo is 6 years old?